September 12, 2023 / Idea File Magazine

10 Common Challenges Advisers Face & How to Overcome Them

Written by Danielle Finch

Even talented students are still kids, which means all advisers face shared common issues each year. Repetition and practice are key to overcoming these issues. In-class activities and lessons offer a safe space for practice, creativity and mistakes. Here are 10 common challenges your staff might face and how to get your students to master the skills needed to make a phenomenal yearbook.

1. Caption Writing

Captions are not meant to be jaw-dropping copy; the formulaic writing should tell the story of the photograph and provide contextual information. Start with these resources to help improve your staff’s captions.

  • Caption Writing Video and Handouts: Watch the instructional video on caption writing by Renee Burke, MJE, and use the resources provided to practice.
  • Caption Writing Kit Poster: Your Planning Kit contains a classroom poster that spells out the ABCDs of caption writing. A visual on the wall gives students a daily reminder, plus, they won’t have to ask you if they can find the answer on the wall.
  • Yearbook Suite: “Completing Your Copy with Captions and Headlines” Help students learn how to write captions and headlines that grab the reader’s eye and keep them on the page with our comprehensive Yearbook Suite curriculum, and this unit focuses on captions and headlines.

2. Low Quality Photos

Do you find your students’ photos lacking? Teaching photography boils down to preparation, critique and praise. It’s not every student’s strong suit; but you can implement practices that ensure your staff understands the fundamentals of photography.

  • Yearbook Suite: “Photojournalism: Telling Stories with Images”: Great photos help tell the story of the year in a way readers remember. This unit introduces the world of photojournalism.
  • Team Photo Practice: Taking sports photos can be intimidating, especially if students are not familiar with the sport or players. Images can reflect your photographer’s anxiety. Go to a practice together to introduce staffers to the coaches, get a feel for the space and demonstrate where to place themselves to get impactful shots. Once they’re comfortable with their surroundings, they’ll feel prepared to get in on the action.
  • Photoshop Help: Most photos need touch ups. With our Photoshop video tutorial series located on, an expert walks through how to edit photos for spreads.
  • Feedback and Critiques: Don’t let hard work go unnoticed. Have editors choose the top five “Photos of the Week” and give positive feedback and critiques in class. The more confident your photographers are, the more likely they’ll take powerful shots.

3. Spread Design

The struggle to create high-quality spreads remains a common challenge. The key is to show quality design inspiration examples to boost creativity.

  • Find Inspiration: Analyze our online Theme Gallery and Caught Our Eye spreads with your class to identify eyeline, hierarchy or negative space. Once students recognize patterns of good design, it becomes natural to incorporate those elements in to any spread.
  • Yearbook Suite: “Understanding Why Design Matters” This unit shows the fundamentals of yearbook design and all the intricacies of making eye-catching spreads.
  • Graphic Design Portfolios: Use resources like Behance, Fast Company or Typography to browse graphic designer portfolios and popular trends. Have your class find a handful of portfolios they like and present their findings.
  • Video Resources: Our library of webinars showcases techniques for achieving high-quality design for your staff to emulate. Learn from the masters what goes into good spread design and how to go from a blank spread to a well-rounded one.
  • Yearbook Help Tutorials: Knowing the software is the first step in creating captivating design. Walk your students through our library of tutorials related to Yearbook 360 – Online Design or Adobe InDesign on to help staff members who may be new to the program.

4. Cover Development

How will you bridge your theme throughout the book using your cover as the anchor point? Plan carefully to ensure your vision is impactful.

  • Cover Gallery: Choose books from our online Cover Gallery and analyze them with your team. Consider the typography, color, textures and imagery other schools use. What design elements on the cover inspire you?
  • Brainstorm and Work Together: Making a cover your entire staff loves encourages buy-in and inclusivity. Allow all staff members to contribute to this brainstorming process – not just editors. Don’t dismiss any ideas during this stage. Get everyone talking and excited for your cover.
  • Workshops: A fresh set of eyes can help determine if your cover is communicating the intended message. Attend Elite Weekend and workshops your rep hosts to seek advice.

5. Theme Conceptualization

Another new year brings another theme concept. Crafting a theme that encapsulates the year takes planning.

  • Online Theme Gallery: Look at well-executed themes to ignite your staff’s creative journey. Identify theme styles that inspire you and talk about what a high-quality theme looks like on the page. Refer to our Possibilities book for this too.
  • President’s Collection: Watch the President’s Collection Highlight Series to research the best of the best theme development.
  • Theme Webinar: “What’s Your Theme Story?” Our yearbook experts have a fool-proof method to help you find the perfect yearbook theme.

6. Book Sales

Plan your marketing strategy early to avoid a lull in sales. The more yearbooks and ads you sell, the more you can do with your staff. View a full list of resources at

  • Parent Email Program: Remind parents to buy the yearbook with our Parent Email Program (PEP) and give your sales an easy boost. Work with your sales rep to get started at
  • Social Media Resources: Access our social media content and resources to boost sales and generate awareness.
  • Pick 6: Walsworth created sales tools to help you sell more effectively. “Pick 6” marketing resources are available at for you to select the ones that fit your school’s unique needs to invest efforts for maximum return.

7. Strong Copy

Writing strong copy can be a daunting task for students. Work with them to write effective, storytelling copy that captures the year.

  • Yearbook Suite: “Writing: Tell Me a Story”:  This unit kickstarts the process for writing personal stories and finding unique angles.
  • Published Inspiration: Take a look at investigative journalism pieces, magazines, great yearbooks and other published works to explore ways to craft your narrative copy.
  • Writing Webinar: “Feature it!”: Watch yearbook legend Susan Massy teach how to write for your yearbook in our webinar series.

8. Confident Interviewing

Kids get nervous talking to people they don’t know. Recognizing and overcoming potential hesitations that come with interviewing builds confidence. The more you practice and prepare, the better your copy turns out.

  • Yearbook Suite: “The Art of the Interview”: This unit teaches your staff the fundamentals of interview etiquette and best practices.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice: You have to work a little magic to make subjects feel comfortable and confident in their answers. If your staff struggles with interviews, have them practice in class. Model a good interview and have them take notes on body language and questioning style.
  • Team Approach to Interviews: Consider conducting interviews as pairs. Sometimes one staff member has a great follow-up question that would not be asked otherwise, and it might feel less intimidating with someone else there.

9. Team-building and Buy-in

Would your staff rather play on their phones than work on yearbook? Do they seem disconnected? Early team-building and buy-in activities build a positive culture vital to your success.

  • Yearbook Suite: “Staff Management through Team Building”: This unit provides tips and helpful suggestions for managing your staff and building strong working relationships.
  • Workshops: Attending workshops isn’t just about learning – it’s about exploring, meeting new people and bonding with other team members to foster relationships. You develop closer connections with one another when you do fun things together.
  • Incentives and Competitions: Tap into kids’ competitive nature. Incentives motivate students to work hard. Even if it’s just a bar of chocolate, kids light up when they work toward a prize!
  • Creating a Positive Culture: If you maintain a positive attitude, smile and model positive behaviors, students will follow. Take photos with them, demonstrate that you care about them and make all students feel included.

10. Sub Plans

Never worry about missing a day with these everyday activities your staff can do to stay sharp and stay busy.

  • Yearbook Suite Activities: Choose any of our curriculum activities to keep your staff working. Focus on areas that might need a refresher.
  • Webinars and eBooks: Access our webinars and eBook library for an abundance of materials across a plethora of categories. Use the Google Forms embedded in our Class Starters series to hold students accountable while you’re away.
  • Mini Profiles: Have staff interview one (non-yearbook) student per grade for a mini-profile related to recent school events, sports, news, trends or any coverage gap areas.

Want to read more timely topics related to yearbook? Take a look at the fall Idea File magazine online to see different stories focused on how to make your yearbook the best it can be.

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Danielle Finch

Danielle Finch is a former journalism adviser at Smithville High School and now works as a Digital Marketing Specialist for Walsworth. Danielle's passions lie in writing, managing web content and representing the needs of advisers.